The New York Yankees are nearing the midway point of their final season in Yankee Stadium. Their record? .500
Granted, with some of the injuries they've sustained, being at .500 isn't that bad. Then again, fans don't care about what's not bad—they care about what's not good.
So here we go again. It was about this time last season when Roger Clemens rejoined the team, and some say that that was the boost they needed to play well enough to make the playoffs. Where will the boost come from this season?
Pitching-wise, the Yanks' 'pen must be better. You know something is wrong when the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen is better than the Yankees. What's more important though, is why.
The Phillies seem to have the formula, with different guys like Ryan Madsen and Rudy Seanez ready to go out and take care of the seventh, Tom Gordon or JC Romero in the eighth, and then Brad Lidge in the ninth.
The Yankees? Edwar Ramirez or Jose Veras—who?—for the seventh, Mr. Inconsistent Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth, and then the best closer in the game, Mariano Rivera, in the ninth. Who else can the Yankees turn to? Ross Ohlendorf or LaTroy Hawkins? The Yanks don't even have a left-handed reliever, let alone a J.C. Romero (didn't the Phils get him off waivers last season?).
I completely understand the Steinbrenner's desire to have Joba Chamberlain in the starting rotation, especially with Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy not only injured, but literally sucking when not injured anyway.
But here's what the Steinbrenner's don't understand—you don't change something that's working. Taking Joba out of the set-up role has destroyed what was a solid Yankees bullpen and turned it into a mess.
Ross Ohlendorf is a starter with a good sinker. He's not the greatest candidate for a bullpen job unless you put him in with a ten-run lead. LaTroy Hawkins had a good year last year, but do you really expect him to have two in a row? Farnsworth was pitching great in the seventh inning, but the eighth and sometimes in tie games in the ninth? Bad choice. But look, it's Girardi's only option. And when they do put Mo in a tie game in the ninth? Look what happened against the Royals yesterday.
Bullpens are role-playing positions, and when you take someone out of their role, you never know what you're going to get out of them, even if they are the best relief pitcher of all time.
Enough about the pitching woes, what is going on with the offense? When's the last time we saw Derek Jeter hitting .276? Why is Robbie Cano so bad this year?
Whether Jeter will admit it or not, getting hit on the hand hurts, and it takes time for wounds to heal. He seems to be swinging the bat the same way he always does nevertheless, so what's the problem?
My opinion: The dude is too much of a team player. He's always the guy trying to punch the ball through the right side to get that runner from first to third. He's always trying to get the ball in the air to get that runner home from third with less than two outs. Dude—just take what you're given and hit it hard somewhere!
I think Derek's hitting problems all revolve around thinking too much at the plate. He has too much natural ability to be hitting like this. He 's so much more of a dynamic player than this. Unless the rumors are true, maybe Jeter is simply starting to age after all...maybe his best seasons are behind him now. I don't believe that, but hey, results speak louder than beliefs.
Cano is the complete opposite of Jeter. He has zero agenda when stepping to the plate, other than hit the ball hard, anywhere. Robbie is a way better hitter than what we've seen so far this season and everyone knows it.
Honestly though, what he's been doing this season is killing the Yankees. He's playing great in the field, but he's got to become more selective at the plate. Maybe try to draw a walk sometime this season? Maybe, instead of swinging at a pitch he knows he can get his bat to, try swinging at pitches you know you can get hits from?
How many times this season has Cano came to the plate with a runner or two on base, swung at the first or second pitch, and either grounded out weakly or popped out? Too many times to count. It's tolerable in April and May, but now it's June—now it's unacceptable.
Everyone else in the lineup is doing pretty well. Johnny Damon is finally starting to look like the Johnny Damon I remember with Boston, the A's, and KC. Abreu isn't walking as much as he used to, but that's because he's getting pitched to because the guy behind him is A-Rod. Giambi is on pace to hit at least 40 homers this year. Matsui is hitting .323. Melky is even having a solid year at the plate. Now they have Posada back. Where's the weakness in that lineup? Look at number's two and 24 and you'll have the answer.
When Jeter and Cano start hitting they way they're capable of, and the bullpen starts putting up 0s instead of L's, then the Yankees will have a winning record and start climbing the standings. It's only June, so you can't count them out, but it's time for the Yankees to start playing Yankees baseball.